GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART II

The second in our three part review of the best games of 2011 features one of the best games of all time, and two games that pleasantly surprised us. With such a fantastic line up of games hitting our consoles last year, the three games listed below really focus on a great single-player experience.

Pick one of these up new or pre-owned, you will not be disappointed!

Unchartered 3: Drake’s Deception

A rollercoaster story, visuals with beauty and depth, intuitive and riveting game play, and great character build ups makes Unchartered 3 the best single-player game of the year, and dare I say all time? If you play games for great single-player modes, then you just cannot miss Unchartered 3. Actually, if you have a pulse you shouldn’t miss Unchartered 3 (however faint the pulse) – it is one of the ultimate entertainment experiences (across all forms of entertainment). Naughty Dog have done the impossible and improved on Unchatered 2 (voted best PS3 game of all time by Play magazine).

The game starts in the wet streets of London where you end up in a pub brawl. Your journey propels you to an abandoned Chateau in France, a crusader castle in Syria, a pirate lair, and an abandoned city in the desert of Yemenon to trace Sir Francis Drake’s mysterious voyage in the Middle East. Mind blowingly beautiful sceneries often force you to slow down and admire the view. The game itself builds on the previous versions of running, climbing, hand to hand combat, and shoot offs with groups of bad guys. The hand to hand combat is seriously improved and shooting mode works seamlessly – while not at the level of a BF3, it is very enjoyable nonetheless.

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

Riveting Action, Stunning Landscapes, and Great Characters - Unchartered 3 Delivers

The character building and story line immerse you so deeply in the game that it is nearly impossible to put down. The cut scenes work so seamlessly with the game and often lead to rollercoaster game sequences (whether it is escaping a burning down castle or hanging onto the ropes of a cargo plane). In fact, the character building and action are so good they are looking at turning the franchise into a movie. There is also a great coop mode and the online multiplayer is surprisingly good. This game is the answer to the prayers in our blog post (How to Ruin a Video Game in Five Simple Steps). Unchartered 3 is the one game you should not to miss from 2011 (and that is saying something with the quality of the competition), so go and buy it NOW!!!

Deus Ex : Human Revolution

Deus Ex was the surprise of the year for us. While it’s predecessor, Deus Ex, lies in the Hall of Fame, we were expecting another Duke Nukem; but boy were we wrong! Human Revolution does not have the multiplayer modes of Battlefield 3, it is not the complete package of Unchartered 3 – but it is a really deep single-player experience. Picture Metal Gear Solid meets Red Dead Redemption meets Infamous meets L.A. Noire. The game is set in a futuristic cyberpunk style world where humans can be augmented by humans. You play Adam Jensen, who (yes, you’ve guessed it), is seriously augmented as a result of a terrorist attack leaving him in near death status. Your aim is to track down the perpetrators of the attack and as you progress, you go deeper into a global conspiracy theory revolving around your lost ex-wife and your current employer.

Multifunctional Augments - The Arm Blade: Useful for Killing Enemies and Slicing Your Morning Bread

As you progress through the game, you can augment your character with some interesting features: a 360 degree grenade, the ability to jump ten meters in the air, become invisible for short periods of time or punch through walls. Human Revolution gives you the freedom to decide the style of play you want: depending on how you choose to augment your character, you can take a stealth approach, a brute force approach, or a mixture of both – and these apply also to the open world of each city. There are also a number of side missions on offer which tie in very nicely with the main story line, and don’t feel pointless like is so often the case. We preferred the stealth approach, as the brute force approach seemed to less intuitively go with the game. Though we did get a surprise when the first boss required a brutal set up…

If you like deep one player experiences with strong story line, then Deus Ex is a game you can’t miss.

L.A. Noire

Mmm - That Is A Strange Place To Fall Asleep

L.A. Noire is a bit like Shah Ruh Khan as in you either love it or hate it. You play a cop in post WW2 LA, traumatized by the war and the decisions our man had to make. This is a sleuth game with a straight story line coupled with a free world environment where you can pursue additional cases. You solve cases by finding clues and interrogating characters (using both the innovative face reading feature and the clues you have gathered). You also get involved in tailing suspects, or more hardcore car chases and full on shoot outs with gangsters.

The game play is intuitive as you’d expect from a 2011 release, and the story line is well written and keeps you hooked onto your haunted character. How you perform on each case will also modify the story line and how quickly you rise through the ranks of the police force.

If you’re looking for a very different game or love crime shows and solving crimes, then L.A. Noire is well worth the investment.

GAMES FROM 2011 YOU SHOULD NOT MISS: PART I

You have to admit, the year 2011 has been like no other when it comes to gaming.  There have been great games in every genre that has revolutionized how we think of gaming.  Further, a new genre of (ahem) casual gaming has been defined by multiple motion gaming releases, games the true core gamer would not have considered otherwise but is now willing to throw caution to the winds and play a bit of bowling over beer with friends!  We compiled this list of games that we were glad to have played this year.  This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and is also the first of our multi-part series of articles.

Third-Person Shooter:  Gears of War 3

Join Marcus Fenix in his search to rescue his father

Now what gamer is not a fan of the ultra-adrenaline junkie that is Marcus Fenix, with arms the size of Bollywood damsels in distress!  In Gears of War 2, Marcus and his faithful friend Dom battle hordes and hordes of Locusts to save the last city of Jacinto.  Gears 3 is very similar to the legend of Gears 2, with a lot more style and polish.  Every movement appears more distinct, more pronounced, every shade of color a bit easier to look at.  The storyline still attempts a good bit of emotional ups and downs, but only as much as a Rambo-like character can pull off.  Gears 3 starts with a surprising twist to the story: Marcus’ dad is still alive! In this season though, audience favorite Dom takes a plunge at the invaders with a truck load of explosives and lays down his life for his squad.   Four-player cooperative campaigns and new multiplayer modes also makes Gears 3 a sweet game to play online against teenagers high on coke (the cola variety, of course!).

First-Person Shooter:  Battlefield 3

Take a moment to admire the power of Frostbite 2

Ok, I will go ahead and say it.  I am a Battlefield fan and no, I don’t think Modern Warfare 3 sucks.  Both are great games, but I am going to write about BF3 because I am the one with the laptop right now.  EA’s Frostbite 2 engine’s capabilities really shine through in this edition of Battlefield.  The level of detail that this engine manages to add to the campaign is immaculate.  A scene where you turn around from crossfire to notice a helicopter flipping in mid-air, only to have a 80 storey building come crashing on it, provides you with a sense of awe.  The enormity and mammoth-scale of it all makes you sit up and notice.  The storyline itself is much more predictable than BF2: Bad Company and follows the usual formulaic components of Russians, nuclear weapons, and middle eastern rogue regimes. But that isn’t what puts BF3 on our map, it is the multiplayer action that this game brings to us.  The MP action is almost like a different game and allows you to do a lot of different things you wished the campaign would (e.g., not making you wait for that exact moment so you can hit X to score that perfect punch on the enemy’s face!).

Sports:  FIFA12

Enter a whole new world of tactical defending

It is difficult to be a core gamer and not like the FIFA franchise.  The biggest change EA delivered on its franchise is augmented defensive plays.  Tactical defending provides a lot more realistic feel to the game, allowing you to contain, marshall, and jockey your opponents.  On the other hand, precision dribbling now allows you to keep the ball with you longer…once you have figured it out!  The last thing that makes the FIFA12 experience stand out is the Player Impact Engine, which — like the name suggests — makes for better collisions.  Each player’s “mass” and angle of impact (among other things) are taken into account to simulate collisions that are as close to the real thing as current technology can get.  So this legend is another game that you must possess.

These are only three games to feature on the first of our series.  Within the genre’s above, what other games do you think should make the cut?  Crysis 2? Deus Ex: Human Revolution? Uncharted 3?  Post your comments below to let us know!

HOW TO RUIN A VIDEO GAME IN FIVE SIMPLE STEPS

As my chainsaw was splattering the entrails of an Ork all over the floor in Space Marines, I was left with a hollow feeling. I’m a big Warhammer 40k fan, I love action games, and the action and violence in Space Marines is a lot of fun. So why this hollow feeling? Why the urge to put the mighty chainsaw and bolter away, and swap to Deus Ex or LA Noire? Surely killing orks and fighting the forces of chaos were better than wandering the streets of Detroit or looking for clues in the dark alleyways of 1940’s LA. Then it hit me, the story in Space Marines is absolutely rubbish! The Warhammer 40k world is so rich in potential stories of betrayal, mighty fights between legions of space marines and conquests of alien worlds (plagiarizing the horus heresy could make for an amazing story line), and you end up having to rescue a manufacturing plant. Seriously? A bloody manufacturing plant? What next, space marines save the local chai walla from the evil forces of Chaos?

And this is is the first of my top 5 ways to ruin a video game in 5 simple steps. I’m not going to bother with some of the basics such as poor gameplay, terrible visuals as these are so blindingly obvious. Games that don’t get the basics right are worth less than a broken clay pot from the Roman empire.

1. Rubbish Story Line
There’s nothing like a terrible story line to ruin a potentially great game. The Space Marines example is typical, you end up running

Illogical actions and loose storyline encourage you to give Space Marines a wide miss.

through a manufacturing plant pressing buttons to activate different boring options, and when you do hit the button, you have to go find another button to make the previous button work. Another great game ruined by the lack of a story is Modern Warfare 2 – MW 1 is one of my favorite games ever, so I felt like an alcoholic in a whiskey factory when I got my hands on the next installment. However, the terrible and incomprehensible story line just ruined it. A mid-level American officer partners with a low life terrorist to destroy the world. And you’re a UK special forces op working for the Americans? Come on guys – make a bit more of an effort with the 3rd installment or you’re going to ruin all the great work you did with all the previous installments of the series. It doesn’t need to be complicated (although scenarios full of suspense like Deus Ex are great), it just has to make sense and have some variety. There’s nothing more irritating than when you get to the objective and you are awaiting the next part of the story, that you find out you need to go and do something else before you move on.

2. Nothing New
I would like to tip my hat off to games such as LA Noire, GTA (when it first came out), Metal Gear Solid, Mario Kart, Prince of Persia, Final Fantasy and all the other games that brought innovation to our consoles. I’m a big fan of shoot ’em ups but how many third party shooters are coming soon or have been released recently? They’re a lot of fun and give me good mileage for my PS3. But there’s no feeling like getting immersed into something completely different. All my favorite games have brought innovation in story lines, graphics, playability and pushed the boundaries of gaming forward (Prince of Persia, MW, MGS, Mario Kart, Red Dead, Halo, etc.).

3. Multiplayer Options Only On-line

FIFA always ensures long hours of fun when you are playing with friends.

Why, oh why, do I have to log online to play multiplayer games? I’m chilling at home with friends, whack in a Crysis 2 or a Space Marine, and all we want to do is kill the living daylights out of each other. But no, we have to log-in online to play, and some games you can’t even split screens!!!! I know that online gaming brings the money in, but it doesn’t mean I like it. That’s why I prefer the PS3 to the Xbox. So what happens to me and my friends? Well, it generally ends up being a FIFA session which is no bad thing – and that’s why I always get my hands on the latest FIFA or PES (but that’s another argument).

4. Short Game Play
Picture the scenario. You’ve just bought you’re latest game. You’ve decided to save some money and you’re spending Friday night at home (come on, it happens to do the best of us), you’ve got your delivery guy on speed dial, your fridge is stocked with your favorite tipple, and your phone is off so the world cannot reach you. And 4 hours later, the game is finished…what???? I ruined my Friday night and spend more than 2000 bucks for that! The latest Prince of Persia is the classic example of that. I know this has happened to me way too many times (yeah, cool quotient down the drain). As I was writing this, I was trying to remember the name of the games where this happened. I couldn’t. Nuff said.

5. No Bugs Please
I do feel bad writing this as I know it’s nearly impossible for a games developer to eliminate bugs completely, but there are some bugs that just drive you crazy. Enemies stuck in walls you can’t kill and have to commit suicide before starting again, I can live with. But pressing the button to enter my car in LA Noire and getting run over, or being stuck at a level of Black Ops and not being able to get through because the screen went dark – drives me crazy! I know developers already doing a better job with Beta launches of filtering for bugs, but what about an option to report a bug in the game directly (and maybe even skipping the place you’re stuck at). Too much to ask?

You’ll have noticed that some of the great games of our time make one of these 5 basic errors. Making one isn’t going to completely ruin the game, but steering away from this can transform a good game into a fantastic one. I know some of you might be reading this saying “What about x? How about y?” These are the 5 things that irritate me the most. But feel free to add yours, I’ll most likely agree or learn something new. So put your money where your, err, keyboard is….

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